Strategy topic of the week: What moves should you make now to optimize your roster for the playoffs?
At this point in the season you have only four or five games left before your league's playoffs begin. If your team has a record of 6-3 or better and is among the top-ranked teams in your league in points scored, you're very likely to qualify for your league's playoffs.
If you're in a league that gives first-round byes to the teams with the best records, you'll definitely want to do your best to obtain a bye; the fewer games you have to win in the playoffs to capture your league's championship, the better. However, even if you are in the hunt for a bye, now is not the time to get complacent about your team's roster and its regular-season success.
The best way to ensure that you have the optimal roster heading into your league's playoffs is to start analyzing playoff week match-ups now. How do you go about doing this? Start by separating the players currently on your roster into four groups:
Running backs - look at each of your running backs' playoff weeks' opponents' average rushing yards allowed per game. Be sure to use average rushing yards allowed per game rather than total rushing yards allowed because not all teams have had their bye week yet. Jot down those numbers next to your running backs' names. At the risk of stating the obvious, the higher the average rushing yards allowed per game numbers, the more favorable the match-ups are for your running backs.
Quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends - repeat the exercise you just performed for running backs, but use opposing teams' average passing yards allowed per game instead of average rushing yards allowed per game to gauge your players' match-ups.
Defenses - repeat the exercise using opposing teams' average total yards of offense (rushing + passing) per game. The lower the opposing teams' totals, the better.
Kickers - repeat the exercise using opposing teams' average total yards (rushing + passing) allowed per game. The higher the opposing teams' totals, the better.
Next, for each of your current players classify each of their playoff week match-ups as favorable, neutral, or unfavorable. These ratings should take into account not only your players' opponents' figures from above, but also your players' ability, health, and opportunity for playing time.
The goal is obviously to have a favorable match-up for each starting lineup spot for each week of your league's playoffs (note: this does not mean that your starting lineup would necessarily be the same for each of the playoff weeks). That's highly unlikely to be the case, so set your hypothetical "best lineup" for each week of your league's playoffs using the players currently on your roster.
For the players in your hypothetical playoff week lineups who have less than favorable match-ups across the board you have two alternatives to your hypothetical starting lineups:
- Look for players currently on the waiver wire who have more favorable match-ups than the players currently in your hypothetical starting lineups. Remember that for players with similar ability, health, and playing time, even upgrading from an "unfavorable" match-up to a "neutral" one represents improvement.
- Look for players on other owners' rosters who may have a more favorable set of playoff week match-ups. Keep in mind that owners out of the playoff race or those on the cusp of qualifying for the playoffs will be more likely to make a deal before your league's trading deadline than owners of teams likely to be your opponents during the playoff weeks.
Players you'll wish you hadn't started this week
QB: Tom Brady (@ NY Jets), Ben Roethlisberger (@ Cincinnati), Jay Cutler (vs. Detroit)
RB: Frank Gore (vs. NY Giants), Rashard Mendenhall (@ Cincinnati), Beanie Wells (@ Philadelphia)
WR: Wes Welker (@ NY Jets), Mike Wallace (@ Cincinnati), Reggie Wayne (vs. Jacksonville)
TE: Tony Gonzalez (vs. New Orleans), Dustin Keller (vs. New England), Anthony Fasano (vs. Washington)
DEF: San Francisco (vs. NY Giants), Tennessee (@ Carolina), NY Giants (@ San Francisco)
K: Alex Henery (vs. Arizona), Matt Prater (@ Kansas City), Josh Brown (@ Cleveland)
Players you'll wish you had started this week
QB: Tim Tebow (@ Kansas City), John Beck (@ Miami), Matt Moore (vs. Washington)
RB: Chris Ogbannaya (vs. St. Louis), Roy Helu (@ Miami), Reggie Bush (vs. Washington)
WR: Preston Parker (vs. Houston), Damian Williams (@ Carolina), Jason Hill (@ Indianapolis)
TE: Jake Ballard (@ San Francisco), Visanthe Shiancoe (@ Green Bay), Jacob Tamme (vs. Jacksonville)
DEF: Jacksonville (@ Indianapolis), Miami (vs. Washington), Denver (@ Kansas City)
K: John Kasay (@ Atlanta), Neil Rackers (@ Tampa Bay), Dan Bailey (vs. Buffalo)